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Should Child Support Cover College Expenses?

Child Support Laws and College Expenses

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College tuition after divorce
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An issue dealt with more frequently over the past 10 years is whether it is a parent’s duty to help with a child’s college related expenses. Most feel that it is a parent’s duty only when that parent voluntarily assumes the duty and should not be a part of their child support responsibility. With the increase in the cost of secondary educational expenses, some states feel that child support should continue past the age of majority if the child in enrolled in college full time. Since non – custodial parents are generally less willing than custodial parents to pay for college, the issue of college expenses has become a major concern when negotiating a divorce settlement.

Negotiating the Cost of College:

Since the cost of a secondary education are difficult to anticipate, college support agreements would be hard to enforce in court if the courts insisted on a list of specific costs. Most states recognize the fact that it is hard to be specific about costs when negotiating the future college expenses of a 4 or 5 year old. Luckily, courts are enforcing such settlement agreements even when the language is vague. Agreements that state a spouse is willing to pay “reasonable” college costs are more likely to get approval from the courts.

State Laws and College Expenses:

Most courts recognize the need for children to have a college education, so, they tend to allow the issue to be included in divorce settlement negotiations. As long as the supporting language of the agreement is strong and the expected costs to a parent are not excessive. Below is a list of all the states and their laws pertaining to college expenses and post majority child support. If your state does not have laws in place requiring parents to help with college expenses you will want to seriously consider making it a part of your settlement negotiations.

  • Alabama - Courts may require parents to provide post-minority support for child's college education. Bayliss v. Bayliss, 550 So. 2d 1038 (1989); Ala. Code § 30-3-1.

  • Alaska - Courts may not require parents to pay for college. H.P.A. v. S.C.A., 704 P.2d 205 (Alaska 1985).

  • Arizona - No statute or case law holding parents to duty. Solomon v. Findley, 167 Ariz. 409. 808 P.2d 294 (1991).

  • Arkansas - No statute or case law holding parents to duty. Solomon v. Findley, 167 Ariz. 409. 808 P.2d 294 (1991).

  • California - No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • Colorado - Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-115(1.5)(b) provides that for orders entered prior to July 1, 1997, support may be ordered. In re Marriage of Robb, 934 P.2d 927 (Colo. Ct. App. 1997).

  • Connecticut - No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • Delaware - No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • District of Columbia - D.C. Code § 16-916 provides that minor children are entitled to support; the age of majority is 21.

  • Florida - No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • Georgia – No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • Hawaii - Haw. Rev. Stat. § 580-47 and Haw. C.S.G. provide that courts may order support for adult children in college.

  • Idaho - No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • Illinois - 750 Ill. Law. Con. Stat. § 5/513 provides that court may make provisions for educational expenses of child, whether or minor or majority age.

  • Indiana - Ind. Code § 31-1-11.5-12(b)(1) provides that a child support order may include sums for institution of higher learning.

  • Iowa - Iowa Code § 598.1(2) provides that support means an obligation which may include support for a child between 18 and 21.

  • Kansas - No statute or case law holding parent to duty.

  • Kentucky - No statute or case law holding parent to duty. Reed v. Reed, 547 S.W.2d 4 (Ky. 1970).

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